INDIANAPOLIS – Ryan Grigson brought in six unrestricted free agents in his first year with the Colts.
Within 90 minutes of the start of the 2013 NFL free agency period, he had contract agreements with five players – offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus, defensive end Lawrence Sidbury, linebacker Erik Walden, offensive guard Donald Thomas and cornerback Greg Toler.
Grigson, who earned NFL Executive-of-the-Year honors for his work in 2012 said all players were signed with the chance to be starters.
In his 15th year of NFL evaluation, Grigson wants team players who buy into a club’s culture and look to make a difference.
“We tried to get better across the board. We went with our convictions,” said Grigson. “We wanted players to help us build off a great 2012 season. We found guys who we think have a common thread. They were guys Chuck (Pagano) and I both felt fit in a lot of different ways.
“First you have to love the game and play lights-out, all the things Chuck and I have looked for since we got here. They’re going to be good teammates, guys who expect as much out of themselves, if not more, than their coaches will every day. Those are the kind of guys you don’t have to keep your thumb on. Those are the kind of guys who try to be great when no one’s looking.
“Chemistry is an important factor. Scheme is an important factor. Being a good citizen is a factor. The thing I always hold fast to is, ‘The tape doesn’t lie.’
Grigson is pleased with the early action and feels the club is better now than when the day started. He said the day has been “hectic” and “exiting” and that adrenaline had been flowing. He termed the process of attracting new players as fun, and the process may not be over.
THUMBNAIL LOOKS AT THE NEW COLTS:
Cherilus, 6-7, 325, started 71-of-75 games at right tackle for Detroit after being selected 17th overall in the 2008 draft. Cherilus started 16 games last year, helping pave the way for the Lions to rank second in NFL in passing yards (4,927), third in net yards (6,540) and ninth in sacks allowed (29).
In 2011, he opened 15-of-16 games as Detroit ranked fourth in points scored, passing yards and red zone percentage and fifth in overall yards. Cherilus was a 12-game starter in 2010. The Lions finished fifth in the NFL in sacks per pass play, giving up just 27 sacks on 660 passing plays.
“You can’t coach (his size), who plays snap-to-whistle,” said Grigson. “He doesn’t take any flak from anyone. He will fight and scrap until every whistle. He’s 28, has a lot of experience. He’s there on Sunday’s and you can count on him.”
Sidbury, 6-3, 261, appeared in 48 games with Atlanta, totaling 17 tackles, 5.0 sacks and one fumble recovery. In 2011, he played in 16 games and had 11 tackles and 4.0 sacks. As a rookie in 2009, Sidbury appeared in 16 games and had five solo tackles, 1.0 sack and a fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown.
“He has always played in a 4-3. Coming out of school, he had great measurable,” said Grigson. “He has 35-inch arms and ran 4.53 at the combine. It’s going to take some time to learn the schemes. He’s primarily been in the 4-3. He’s a good fit. It’s all out in front of him. He’s a guy who can put it all together and do well in our scheme.”
Walden, 6-2, 250, has started 26-of-68 games after being the sixth-round pick of Dallas in 2008. Walden joined Kansas City after being waived by Dallas, playing nine games for the Chiefs and two for Miami that year. Walden was a special teams performer who played in 11 more games with Miami in 2010.
Walden appeared in two games with Miami in 2010 before being waived, and he joined Green Bay. Walden started two of nine games with the Packers, then moved into a starting capacity over the last two seasons.
Walden started 15 games at ROLB in 2011, then followed with nine starts at LOLB this past season. Walden had 71 tackles, 38 solo, this past season, with three sacks and two interceptions. He has 188 career tackles, nine sacks and two interceptions.
“We’re always trying to get guys for Chuck who are a good fit for what he’s trying to accomplish. Erik is one of those guys,” said Grigson. “The one thing that sticks out about Erik…he can set the edge. In a 3-4, that’s what your outside linebackers have to do. This guy has done it in a textbook way. He jolts people’s head back with contact. He’s violent with his hands. His motor never stops.”
Thomas, 6-4, 305, started 21-of-43 games with Miami and New England over the past five years. Last season, Thomas started seven-of-16 games and helped block for an offense that ranked first in the NFL in points (557), net yards (6,846), first downs (444), third-down percentage (48.7) and red zone percentage (70.0). In 2011, he appeared in 10 games (one start), playing mainly on special teams and in short-yardage situations. With the Dolphins in 2008 and 2009, Thomas started 13-of-17 games.
“Thomas has a good number of starts under his belt,” said Grigson. “We feel the arrow is up on him. He’s a good, young lineman. He played at a high level for a great organization. He’s going to compete for one of the guard spots. We’re extremely excited he can help bolster the interior. He can play three positions, both guard spots and he can snap some.”
Toler, 6-0, 192, opened 15-of-38 games for Arizona after being a fourth-round pick in 2009 (131st overall). For his career, he has tallied 128 tackles, 118 solo, 19 passes defensed, five interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns, and 1.0 sack.
Last year, Toler started two-of-11 outings and had 27 tackles, 26 solo, eight passes defensed and two interceptions, including a career-long 102-yard return for a touchdown. In 2010, Toler started 13-of-14 games and had a career-high 90 tackles, 82 solo, nine passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two interceptions, including a 66-yard scoring return.
“He is an exceptional athlete. He can run. He has great quickness,” said Grigson. “Like Vontae (Davis), he is a gifted cover man with great athletic ability. He’s not afraid to stick his nose in there. He will tackle you. He plays with a tempo that you love to see in a corner. We feel we have a strong tandem moving forward.”
“We’re trying to get better. Going into this thing, you never know for sure who you’re going to get. At the end of the day it came together, and we couldn’t be happier.”